Joe Davis has been playing checker tournaments for 30 years.
And he still isn’t in it for the money.
Davis and about 80 of his checker friends are competing this week in the American Pool Checker Association’s 50th Annual National Tournament. The event runs through Thursday at the Hilton Durham Hotel.
The Bull City Pool Checkers Club, located in the Phoenix Square Shopping Center on Fayetteville Street, is hosting the event. Davis is the club president.
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He said the prize winnings are miniscule.
“It’s never enough to even talk about,” said Davis, who also has a club in Louisburg on a street that bears his name. “The tournament costs each player about $1,000 to $1,500. Even if you win first place, it’s only $400 to $500. But that’s not what it’s all about.”
No, what it’s about is friendship, camaraderie and, most importantly, bragging rights.
But the tight-knit group is getting smaller every year. Davis said there are fewer players today than 30 years ago.
“Blame it on all these electronics. They can play the game on the cellphone,” he said. “We didn’t have all this stuff growing up. But the ones who are left are dedicated.”
Davis said club members travel out of town almost every weekend to various parts of the country for the right to hoist the winning trophy.
In addition to Davis’ clubs, Clarence Gooche is president of the American Pool Checker Association in Henderson. Other clubs reside in Atlanta, Georgia, Tennessee, Chicago, Florida and Alabama.
Contact Davis at 919-572-9125 for more information.
Now, a little history on the American Pool Checker Association:
In 1930s Detroit, John Otis and Nathaniel Leach decided to organize a checkers association after watching the game for years being played on street corners, in barbershops, alleys, etc. The competition was so fierce that players would travel around the city trying to outwit the next toughest competitor.
If an opponent lost in five straight games, then they got “mugged.” Ten straight games, and it was a “hooding.”
Straight checkers was too slow for most black players, so they played “Spanish Pool” checkers, which allowed them more leeway in moves and strategies.
But Otis and Leach wanted a more controlled environment, so they founded the St. Antoine Checkers Club at the local YMCA in 1938. Two divisions – heavyweight and light heavyweight – were created two years later.
In 1961, the American Pool Checkers Association was officially registered as a nonprofit to organize all checker players in the United States. Those two divisions grew into five: Top Master, Master, Junior Master Gold Bar and Blue Ribbon.
Last year, 98-year-old George Robinson (now deceased) finished in the elite top 10 in the Top Master division.
NCCU coaches add to staff
Kyle Adams has joined the N.C. Central women’s basketball staff as assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator. He leaves his alma mater and another HBCU, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, where he was head coach since 2013. Adams has over 15 years of coaching experience.
“Coach Adams has spent the last five years devoted to the restoration of women’s basketball at Cheyney, where he was once a competitive student-athlete,” NCCU coach Vanessa Taylor said.
“He has a keen knowledge of what it takes to build a successful program.”